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Leslie Cheung has died.
April 1, 2003 6:40 PM   Subscribe

Leslie Cheung has died. I have no idea how to express my grief, but I feel that this should be discussed here. Yet his death seems to go unmentioned. What could drive someone to do this, and how could the media ignore such a tragic event?
posted by son_of_minya (30 comments total)

 
Maybe they shouldn't mention it? I don't know.

I just feel like it's pretty cynical when every 1970's TV actor who dies by heart attack or senility is featured on CNN, but a dynamo like Leslie Cheung who dies at such a young age and under such tragic circumstances isn't even mentioned.

Maybe it's too soon to say. I just feel like a hero has left us and he went completely unrecognized. It makes me feel like maybe he was thinking nobody cares, and maybe he was right.
posted by son_of_minya at 6:49 PM on April 1, 2003


If you think his death went unmentioned, you need a better news source.
posted by anser at 6:50 PM on April 1, 2003


Not to be heartless, but he's not a celebrity in the US. And MetaFilter is nothing if not US-centric.
posted by smackfu at 6:59 PM on April 1, 2003


I saw this today on google news and I was shocked. I'm not totally surprised by the lack of coverage, on the other hand he's not totally unknown in North America, because of his films with Wong Kar-Wai (especially "Happy Together").

This page (scroll down to the next entry) gives a nice little summary of his life and career, as well as almost every single other Hong Kong actor.
posted by bobo123 at 7:09 PM on April 1, 2003


He may not have been a "celebrity," but he was well-known among film fans in the West. I am completely taken aback by this news.
posted by transient at 7:18 PM on April 1, 2003


Sure, it was reported in some newspapers. I didn't hear anything about it on TV, and I never would have known about this if I didn't read Asian websites.

I'm not the person to come to for tact, either. I apologize if I offend anyone in talking about this. If I've said anything wrong at all. I just couldn't believe that a person I'd thought of as a household name could pass on unnoticed.

I also think it's kind of strange that almost all those articles put the focus on his gay roles. I wish I had chosen a better article myself, because I can imagine some people taking the reference in that article about him wearing high heels as some kind of joke. Personally, I never thought about him in any of those kinds of roles, and I think he was a role model for any young man. Leslie Cheung was cool, bottom line.
posted by son_of_minya at 7:18 PM on April 1, 2003


He couldn't simultaneously have been gay and "a role model for any young man"?
posted by adamgreenfield at 7:25 PM on April 1, 2003


Well, you could mourn by posting some more links to information about this person so morons like me who have no idea who this is could learn about this person and what he did rather than a single link to a news bit.
posted by Eekacat at 7:27 PM on April 1, 2003


Yeah, I'm a self-described media and music junky, and I've never heard of him before. My ignorance, I'm sure, but he just wasn't that big a deal in the west.
posted by jdaura at 7:40 PM on April 1, 2003


I remember back in the late eight eighties, when I was a little kid, I asked a Chinese kid in my class who's popular in Hong Kong, what kind of music do they listen to, and he told me one name, "Leslie Cheung", and for some reason I remembered that name. I think I liked him best as the long haired swordsman in "Ashes of Time".

Does anyone have any particular songs or movies they especially remember him by? I'm not terribly familiar with his music and earilier films.
posted by bobo123 at 7:42 PM on April 1, 2003


Leslie Cheung's "A Passed Love" from A Better Tomorrow.

Also, this:

"On this earth there's a kind of bird without legs, it can only keep on flying all its life; the only time it can get on the ground is when it dies."
--Days of Being Wild
posted by son_of_minya at 8:04 PM on April 1, 2003


First of all, his death has not gone unmentioned. Straight from your article: "News of his sudden death shocked Hongkong. Radio stations dropped their regular programming to play his trademark Cantonese love songs."

Second of all, celebrity trials, deaths, and tribulations have nothing to do with news. It's newstainment at best, and the less of it we have, the better off we are. This stuff belongs in Rolling Stone, not on CNN.

Witold
www.witold.org
posted by Witold at 8:31 PM on April 1, 2003


It is a tragedy to think that someone so talented with so much to offer the world could throw these things away for an affair of the heart.

This is especially true when there are many people in Hong Kong today who would choose to keep their lives but are denied such choice by an unseen enemy.

Although I will continue to cherish his songs (Thank you for the link, son_of_minya!), I don't think I want to know why he did it. In fact, I feel that all suicides letter should be burned unopened and this is no exception.

If he had feelings strong enough to merit such a desperate act and something to say so important that he would make time before his final act to compose a letter, he should have composed a song and stepped onto a stage instead of a ledge.

Such a song would no doubt have been beautiful. It may have helped other depressed people who feel that the ledge is the only path available to them. What a waste of life, talent and possibilities!

I grieve for his family, all of the people that took time out of their lives to help him become a star and all of the people touched by his life's work.

Peace.
posted by cup at 9:13 PM on April 1, 2003


i always thought of Leslie Cheung as Hong Kong's Morrisey. i'm sorry he's gone but at least it was his choice . . .
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 10:08 PM on April 1, 2003


What could drive someone to do this, and how could the media ignore such a tragic event?

Keep in mind suicide in Eastern culture is hung with different notions than within Western culture.
posted by four panels at 10:19 PM on April 1, 2003


I also think it's kind of strange that almost all those articles put the focus on his gay roles...

The article in the South China Morning Post reported that he was in fact gay. Unfortunately, the SCMP online requires subscription. Here's the article in full:

Pop star, actor and director Leslie Cheung Kwok-wing plunged to his death from the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Central in an apparent suicide last night. Cheung, 46 - star of the hit 1993 movie Farewell My Concubine - fell from the 24th floor window of the hotel and was found lying in Connaught Road at 6.41pm.

He was rushed to the Queen Mary Hospital where he was certified dead on arrival. Police found a suicide note, his driver's licence, two credit cards, a car key and a few thousand dollars on his body.

Police refused to disclose the contents of the note but said his death was believed to be due to emotional problems.

As news of Cheung's death emerged, young women fans arrived and laid bouquets and cards near the spot where his body was found.

Cheung, who was gay and lived with his banker lover in Kadoorie Avenue, Ho Man Tin, shot to fame when he was runner-up in ATV's Asian Music Contest in 1976.

Friends and colleagues last night expressed shock and sadness over the star's death.

"I know that he had complained of feeling sick a while ago. But after going to the doctor his condition improved," said Kelvin Wong, general manager of the Chinese music division of Universal Music.

"Everything is in a state of chaos now. There were no signs that he was emotionally disturbed."

Mr Wong said that in the past few months, Cheung had been composing and recording songs for his new CD, which was to be released later this year.

Stephen Chan Chi-wan, assistant general manager of TVB, said that the station would call a meeting this morning to arrange for programmes commemorating the star's life to be aired.

Cheung was nominated best actor for Inner Senses at the Hong Kong Film Awards due to take place on Sunday.


It really shouldn't matter that he was gay. The fact is, many people here in Hong Kong are shocked and saddened by his suicide. This is just more bad news on top of the economic crisis and the ongoing outbreak of SARS that is not yet under control.
posted by bwg at 10:30 PM on April 1, 2003


Hong Kong Entertainment Review is probably the best site in English for keeping up with developments, looks like the HKFA film awards might be postponed because of this. Oh thanks for the article bwg.

Strangely, last year actress Pauline Chan comitted suicide the same way, by jumping off a building.
posted by bobo123 at 10:41 PM on April 1, 2003


Keep in mind suicide in Eastern culture is hung with different notions than within Western culture.

Maybe in Japan, but here in Hong Kong suicide is viewed very much as it is in North American or European societies: as a failure, or an unheeded cry for help, greeted with bewilderment, anger, frustration and shock. There ain't no fancy notions of honour, or any hidden mystic symbolism, if that's what you mean.
posted by plenty at 10:48 PM on April 1, 2003


The first line of the above, of course, is a quote from an earlier post.
posted by plenty at 10:48 PM on April 1, 2003


You're welcome, plenty.

I agree with you regarding the way suicide is looked upon here. The only difference I've noted regarding suicide in Hong Kong is that non-Christians (the bulk of the populace) don't have the stigma of Hell attached to the act.

As far as I'm aware, that stigma may even be lessened in Western religions, though it still certainly exists.
posted by bwg at 10:53 PM on April 1, 2003


It is indeed a tragedy that a star like that died. I think there is a certain taboo surrounding suicides in all cultures. But in the East, depression and emotional problems are often seen as a weakness or a defect rather than an addressable illness. Amidst the continuing economic turmoil, Hong Kong has sadly seen a rise in suicide rates for the last couple of years. There's a well written article at Business Week which touches on the problem Hong Kong faces.

I don't mean to steer the conversation away from Lesie Cheung, as a child I have often listened to his songs. However, I want to contribute something to the mefi community rather than just mourn his passing.

.
posted by phyrewerx at 10:59 PM on April 1, 2003


I wasn't terribly familiar with his pop career, but Leslie Cheung was a badass. And much more. He started off by showing us Yank Hong Kong enthusiasts that he had an intriguing ferocity in movies like A Better Tomorrow and then (thanks to Wong Kar-Wei) illustrated to the world that he had an unexpected emotional depth. And just as we were seeing tremendous layers of developing complexity, just as we were starting to understand the subtleties of Cheung's expressive face, the man throws himself out of a building.

Actually, son_of_minna, I saw the news yesterday and thought of posting a FPP. But I figured that in light of the war and the April Fool's jokes, the mourning might be better expressed amongst my fellow film geeks, many of whom were just as astonished as I was at Cheung's passing.

Let it be known that this American expressed a gasp and shed a tear at the news. Outside of David Bowie, I can't think of a pop singer-turned-actor who was as good an actor as Cheung. Cinema has lost an untapped talent, but the movies live on.
posted by ed at 12:13 AM on April 2, 2003


A friend of mine introduced me to Leslie's songs in the late 80s as she thought that was all the convincing I needed of how good Cantonese songs were. Indeed, Leslie's songs were truly among the best and I think, were definitve of a period when Hong Kong TV serials and movies began to attract a much wider & younger audience in many of the chinese-speaking or -populated parts of Asia, US & Taiwan. There's no doubt that Leslie's talents (plus his boyish good look) catapulted him to the fore of cantonese music & movie industries.
posted by taratan at 1:37 AM on April 2, 2003


That sucks. I first saw him in "A Better Tomorrow" and my first impression of that movie was "wow -- here are not one, but TWO great actors I've never seen before." Chow Yun-Fat got all the attention, but Cheung was just as good. Then I really like his work in "Happy Together", "Ashes of Time" and "Days of Being Wild." (big Wong Kar-Wai fan here.)

.
posted by Vidiot at 2:20 AM on April 2, 2003


"He fell", "He left a note". I think "He jumped" would really be the correct phrase there.
posted by HTuttle at 3:43 AM on April 2, 2003


HTuttle, that type of language is typical of the way news is reported here.

Writing "plunged to his death" in the same sentence as "apparent suicide" leaves little room for any conclusion other than "he jumped".
posted by bwg at 4:16 AM on April 2, 2003


By the way, Leslie was not gay, he was bisexual.
posted by Dantien at 7:53 AM on April 2, 2003


Indeed, Cheung was a great actor from what I've seen (mostly the Wong Kar Wai films). Tragic that he couldn't have been helped and a loss to the film world as a whole.
posted by Kafkaesque at 9:30 AM on April 2, 2003


The only difference I've noted regarding suicide in Hong Kong is that non-Christians (the bulk of the populace) don't have the stigma of Hell attached to the act. As far as I'm aware, that stigma may even be lessened in Western religions, though it still certainly exists.

So far as I know that's really only an issue in Catholicism, not in Protestant religions.
posted by kindall at 10:49 AM on April 2, 2003


By the way, Leslie was not gay, he was bisexual.

Again, from today's SCMP:

"His death has also left a void in the gay community which will be difficult to fill. As the only openly gay entertainer in the industry, Cheung was an inspiration for many homosexual youths."


I'm not being argumentative, I just have no other quantifier.


So far as I know that's really only an issue in Catholicism, not in Protestant religions.

I would agree, except to add that the Catholic belief is certainly widely known among Protestant religions and may even have an effect on them.
posted by bwg at 9:15 PM on April 2, 2003


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